Why We Can’t Fill Our Cracks
When I made the decision to quit _______, I had reached the “up to here” point.
I draw a long line to fill in the blank, because really, I have quit so many things at this point, you can fill in the blank.
Writing a fiction book
Writing another book
I think I will stop listing my quits now. Not making me feel so great. Ha. 🙂
But of course, my biggest quit was alcohol. I quit drinking because the “I have had it up to here point” was long-reached, and I was overdue for one of the following:
- Suicide in jail
I am not making light of those choices either. Dead serious.
I tell my story to my Grateful Sobriety group in one way. In a different way than I talk to my blog. In a different way than I talk to Instagram.
But the story goes like this:
When I was a drinker, I would drive down this very long hill near our house several times a day. And yes, I was sober when I drove it.
I could easily hit 50 MPH going down this puppy, and I drove it often. As many times as I drove past it, I probably fantasized about driving my car into the big pine tree at the bottom of it.
[And if you know anything about pines–they aren’t the bendy type trees.]
If someone had asked me in that period of time if I was suicidal, I would have said, “NO. What do you mean?”
In other words, I would have lied right through my teeth about that.
I also didn’t really think that I was “suicidal.” More along the lines of, “I really don’t want to live any more.”
Some people would say that’s the same… but others of us know exactly what I am saying.
But what was my issue??! Afterall, I was great on paper! Hello! I was doing all sorts of racing. I was a four-time IRONMAN athlete. I was an attorney. My kiddos were great and healthy. I was married to a great guy. I had the perfect life on paper.
And I also had a one bottle plus more a day drinking “habit.”
When people ask me, “How do I tell my _____ that they need to quit drinking?” the first thing I say is: “You can’t.”
You can, but they won’t hear.
Or they will hear, and they will hate you.
Or they will hear, ignore it, get sober ten years later, and hate you later.
I don’t know if those are really true. But I do know that when someone told me to stop drinking–I drank more.
This was my business, and no one was going to get into it.
When the driving myself into a tree scenario began to worry me, I realized that I was coming to a crossroads.
I knew I had to quit. I had to, and I was completely terrified of making that “final” decision.
So I did what anyone does when faced with a terrifying decision: I made a pros/cons list, of course.
But in all seriousness, why are we paralyzed by fear and choices sometimes-especially when we know exactly what we need to do?
Tim Ferris, in his TED talk, has a method for sorting out this stuff called “fear-setting.”
With fear-setting, he sets forth an easy-to-implement exercise where he decides whether to do, or not to do something. Basically, it’s a fancy pro/con/oh shit list that takes up three pages of paper.
“On the first page, he lists (1) what he is afraid will happen as a result of making the decision, (2) what he could do to prevent unwelcome outcomes, and (3) how he might handle the worst-case scenario.
“On the second page, he writes down the possible benefits of even a partial success in making the decision.
“And on the third page, he describes what the “cost of the status quo” would be — i.e., the “atrocious cost” of “not doing anything.” [summary from this Thrive Global article]
In his talk, he says, “The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — these are very often exactly what we most need to do.”
No one says this stuff is easy.
No one promises that making the hard choices is all perfection.
But fear-setting is a way to see what the problem is really about, what the change might mean… and then, when framed in that sort of lens, the decision to change (for the good) is almost unavoidable.
In making the hard choices, we create a certain power within ourselves. We take our power back. We decide that we will course-correct, and that life is not futile and hopeless.
Making the decision that something has to change, and that we will be the one to change it? That’s a certain kind of commitment to ourselves that we are often scared of making–for fear of letting ourselves down? For fear of admitting failure? For fear of humiliation, shame, guilt, and more.
Or maybe it’s a simple as this:
Somewhere back down the road in our lives, someone took it upon themselves to break us.
I will repeat that.
Someone broke us.
Maybe we were too young to know what happened. Maybe we were old enough to stop it from happening, and we did nothing. Maybe we know exactly what happened and when, and well, screw that person forever.
But when we are behaving in a self-destructive way—it’s not necessarily “our fault.” We are coping in a way that makes us feel better (for a time), and escape (for a time.)
When someone breaks us–no matter how “small” a fissure, we learn to fill the wide, breaking and breathing gap with addiction, escapism, food, or anything that make the break feel full, unnoticeable, and pretty.
We fill the crack with something—and often it’s not good crack-filling stuff. It’s the bad stuff–drugs, binge eating, affairs, alcohol, work addiction, whatever.
Because somewhere in the crack-making manual, the person, place or thing that broke us—knew that crack-filler would be very expensive and costly. And whether they meant to or not, they sealed a deal of control with their breakage.
But it’s time to break free from our breakage.
The fear of having nothing but time, space and clarity to deal with that fissure seems impossible.
I get it. I have lived it on many, many levels. But here’s the thing: The crack was not our fault. The brokenness, though a part of us, is not who we are.
By taking the step to face the fears—no matter how awful and daunting—and making a promise to ourselves that we deserve better, we can (and will) move beyond the crack—it will heal or stay open–and either way, that will be okay.
But we can’t really fill the crack. We have to move beyond it.
Because you will be you, regardless of the crack.
Time is our friend. And time will help us take back ourselves, and our power.
And there’s literally no end to the possibilities of where we can go.
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National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Learn how YOU can help someone in #BeThe1to5 Action Steps:
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You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
“Oh the Places You’ll Go,” Dr. Seuss